Shock: Geno's wins discrimination case, allowed to keep "speak English" sign

21 months of investigation. A seven-hour hearing. “Hundreds” of billable hours spent lawyering. And no evidence from what I can tell that they ever actually refused to serve anyone.

A city agency yesterday dismissed a discrimination complaint against Geno’s Steaks for its speak-English sign, halting a case that thrust shop owner Joey Vento into the national spotlight of the contentious immigration debate.

A split three-member panel of the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations ruled that a sign in the South Philadelphia cheesesteak shop did not convey a message that service would be refused to non-English speakers…

Had the commission ruled against Geno’s, it could have imposed fines and have moved to revoke Vento’s business license…

Joseph J. Centeno, a lawyer who chaired the panel, dissented and said the commission had met its burden to prove discrimination, citing testimony from several witnesses at the December hearing that they felt intimidated and unwelcomed by the sign’s message.

One witness, University of Pennsylvania sociology professor Camille Z. Charles, likened the “speak English” signs to “whites only” signs from the Jim Crow era.

Don’t celebrate too much. Here’s the relevant part of the statute at issue, the city’s Fair Practices Ordinance. They simply didn’t have a category available to them to rule the way they would have liked. But statutes can be changed and I’m guessing this one probably will be.


Does anything good come out of this, aside from a little blog content and a momentary reprieve from anti-assimilationism? Just one thing. Exit question: How hard is it if you don’t speak English to learn how to point and say “cheesesteak”?